Transcript of James Henry Lewis's Guide to Shorthand

Scope and Content

A transcript of James Henry Lewis's A guide to the delightful recreation of short-hand. The transcript was made by W. Dewsbury of Manchester, for John Cheetham of Gatley, Cheshire. The work comprises six lessons for learning the Lewis system of shorthand. The volume includes a letter from W. Dewsbury, dated 25 June 1825, explaining the shorthand system.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Henry Lewis (1786-1853), stenographer, developed his own shorthand system and in 1812 published The ready writer, or, Ne plus ultra of short hand, being the most easy, exact, lineal, speedy, and legible method ever yet discovered, whereby more may be written in forty minutes than in one hour, by any other system hitherto published. For many years Lewis taught shorthand in London, but, for health reasons, he toured the provinces for some years, teaching and lecturing. His enthusiastic self-promotion belied both the true sophistication and utility of his shorthand system. Lewis, who claimed to teach the Lewisian system of shorthand in six easy lessons, composed doggerel verses both to entertain audiences and to serve as a memory aid for students. One of the last of the great writing masters, Lewis believed that penmanship was a fine art and that a writer's pen should be individually suited to his hand and other physical requirements.

Source: Page Life, 'Lewis, James Henry (1786-1853)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the John Rylands Library by Dr Alphonse Mingana in July 1925.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on James Henry Lewis.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MS 468).

Related Material

The JRUL also holds English MS 52, a manual on shorthand by James Weston (ref.: GB 133 Eng MS 52), and English MS 936, a shorthand New Testament (ref.: GB 133 Eng MS 936).